May Reading from The Message

May 1, 2024

Jacob was cunning and opportunistic. He deceived his father and stole his brother Esau’s birthright. Here, years later, he is about to encounter his older brother and is understandably terrified. In the midst of strategizing on how to survive this meeting, he wrestles with the Lord in one of the most meaningful interactions between God and man recorded in Scripture…

Jacob was scared. Very scared. Panicked, he divided his people, sheep, cattle, and camels into two camps. He thought, “If Esau comes on the first camp and attacks it, the other camp has a chance to get away.”

9-12 And then Jacob prayed, “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, God who told me, ‘Go back to your parents’ homeland and I’ll treat you well.’ I don’t deserve all the love and loyalty you’ve shown me. When I left here and crossed the Jordan I only had the clothes on my back, and now look at me—two camps! Save me, please, from the violence of my brother, my angry brother! I’m afraid he’ll come and attack us all, me, the mothers and the children. You yourself said, ‘I will treat you well; I’ll make your descendants like the sands of the sea, far too many to count.’”

13-20 He slept the night there. Then he prepared a present for his brother Esau from his possessions: two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty camels with their nursing young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put a servant in charge of each herd and said, “Go ahead of me and keep a healthy space between each herd.”

Then he instructed the first one out: “When my brother Esau comes close and asks, ‘Who is your master? Where are you going? Who owns these?’—answer him like this, ‘Your servant Jacob. They are a gift to my master Esau. He’s on his way.’”

He gave the same instructions to the second servant and to the third—to each in turn as they set out with their herds: “Say ‘Your servant Jacob is on his way behind us.’” He thought, “I will soften him up with the succession of gifts. Then when he sees me face-to-face, maybe he’ll be glad to welcome me.”

21-27 So his gifts went before him while he settled down for the night in the camp. But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28-30 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

Scripture Insight

The Power of God to Change People

Jacob was one of the most thoroughly crooked men portrayed in Scripture. There doesn’t seem to have been a single redeeming feature in his life until that night when God wrestled with him and changed him. But it was precisely this man—this man in whom we can find nothing good—who was changed and became the namesake of God’s people: Israel.

Some of us have given up on ourselves, the way we would have given up on Jacob could we not see the power of God to change people. We become so completely discouraged with our attempts at love and righteousness that we wonder, Will I ever make any progress in God’s ways? Others of us seem so separated from the grace and love and ways of God that we wonder, Who can possibly penetrate my calloused skin?

The answer to these questions lies on the banks of the river Jabbok: You can’t do it, but God can. He is able to penetrate your calloused skin; he can enable you to walk in his ways. God changed Simon from a mercurial fisherman with flighty emotions to Peter, “the rock.” He changed Saul from a fanatical persecutor of the Christian church to Paul, its greatest preacher and missionary. There is no person he cannot change.

Not even you are an exception. Including that which is the worst in you, those things that cower inside where nobody but you can see.

The Message for Graduates

Graduation is an important transition in life. The Message for Graduates helps students through this time and makes a perfect graduation gift. It weaves relevant Scripture and the wisdom of Eugene Peterson to provide a convicting and encouraging guide for young Christians.